Steve T. Gray joins the Monitor Oct. 15 as managing publisher. This column was published Sept. 20 in The Monroe Evening News, the suburban-Detroit daily his family has run for three generations and where he has written and edited for 25 years. We thought Monitor readers would enjoy hearing about his reasons for joining us.
As I begin this column, I know I have some more explaining to do.
You've probably heard by now that I'll be leaving The Monroe Evening News to become managing publisher of The Christian Science Monitor in Boston.
Maybe you saw the front-page story in Wednesday's paper.
Because I'll be leaving, I've done a lot of explaining already - to my wife, my father, my mother, our kids, my in-laws, our company's board of directors, our management team, our employees and employee-owners, my friends, fellow church members, on and on.
Over the past three weeks, taking each explanation in its proper order, I have found the words somehow. And now I need the words to explain it to you.
I may or may not know you personally, but over the 16 years I've written The Business of Words, I'll bet more than a thousand readers - maybe a lot more - have gone out of their way to comment on the nearly 800 columns I've written.
Maybe you were one of those, but even if you weren't, it seems to me we've had a relationship.
Since 1980, I've sat down each week I was in town and pushed aside all the issues, meetings, and phone calls to make a space of two or three hours to write to you. This dialogue, although mostly one way, has meant a lot to me, and I hope it has to you.
I've tried to entertain you, to make you laugh (hamsters) or cry (hamsters), to persuade you to see things my way, to show you how we make news decisions, to let you see the values and principles that drive me and this newspaper, and to lift your faith in the power of good.
Your feedback has helped me know our community better, has made us more responsive to readers' feelings, and has influenced many of the paper's changes and improvements for 16 years.
So you deserve the most honest explanation I can give. I hope you won't mind if I talk about myself a little bit.
I guess it all started in Sunday school, when I was a little boy. And at home, too, where my parents were awfully clear about what mattered.
What matters, I learned, is that each of us is an expression of God. Or, if you don't believe in God, call it good, or some infinite Principle governing the universe. The good in us is what is real and true and lasting, and putting it to fitting use is why we exist.
So, while it might seem that I became a reporter, an editor, and a company president here in Monroe because I was a natural writer born into a newspaper family, that's not how it seemed to me.
It seemed to me that, given what I had - whatever thinking, writing and communication skills - making newspapers was a suitable way to put them to use for the common good, and Monroe was a good place to do it.
For me, unlike many journalists, making newspapers was never exactly the point.
The point was making a product that served deep-rooted principles, for the benefit of a community I loved. And it was developing a workplace that encouraged people to grow and enabled them to prosper from their good work.
So why would I leave? Not to make newspapers in a bigger city, nor for more money, nor for more prestige.
But what if my church asked me to apply all that I've learned in Monroe, at a newspaper serving the very highest principles I believe in, with a mission of uplifting all mankind?
I'd have no choice.
And so, next month, I'll begin dividing my time between Boston and Monroe for six to nine months. With great joy, I'll wrap up important work here while also working on a plan to bring new vitality to The Christian Science Monitor.
And when the work in Monroe is done, I'll be gone.
To understand this, you'd have to see the Monitor. Although published by the Christian Science church, it is a "real" newspaper renowned for almost 90 years for its pure and insightful journalism - winner of six Pulitzer prizes, respected the world over.
For Christian Scientists, it is a living statement to the world of the principles we stand for.
And so, in the coming months, I'll have precious little time for writing columns. This won't be the last, but there probably won't be many more.
I hope you'll understand, and I believe you will. And I thank you for it.